When life give you lemons, you make lemonade. When it gives you Montrachet, you make the best damn dinner of summer. And so we did on July 19th at one of the city’s greatest seafood restaurants, Vaucluse. A longtime client and friend of TWM deemed it time to crack into his semicentennial collection to check in and see how the bottles were stacking up. We gathered a group of 10 for an in depth look at Montrachet, the greatest of all white wine appellations.
We began with the collector’s favorite Champagne, Andre Beaufort. Unfamiliar to me, some research revealed Beaufort as one of the greatest producers of Ambonnay. Antonio Galloni gushes over the 2000 Brut Millesime Grand Cru, this is a reference point wine for readers who want to know why Ambonnay is a Grand Cru village. It should be noted that the estate has long been organic and biodynamic after Andre suffered illness in the 1960s from the pesticides and herbicides used with conventional farming. The 1990 Brut Millesime is a stunner loaded with complexity of vibrant fruit (apples!), baked brown bread, and toasted nuts that linger on the palate for minutes.
Unfortunately the rose version of the same wine was corked, but as Ben put it, at least we got it out of the way early. Instead we soldiered on with a bottle of Agrapart 7 Crus that was decidedly less toasty, but full of freshness with a touch of green leaving questions of the base vintage – 2011??
We retired to the table for the main event, a staggering line up spanning the last half of the twentieth century from the world’s greatest white wine vineyard. Behold Montrachet.
Flight one was served alongside caviar covered crab. Up first, the youngest, Marc Colin 2001, Guy Amoit 1993, and a blind provided by Ben.
Marc Colin 2001: Rich nose of fruit, cream and new French oak, supported with full body and a spectacular acid line – which I found consistently throughout each producer and vintage. Creamy but tight with butterscotch and popcorn flavors, wonderfully fresh acidity and a finish that won’t quit. This got a few votes for WOTN.
Guy Amoit 1993. Amber in color, cream earthy bees and oak aromas, opening into caramel. This showed its aged and felt just on the cusp of becoming tired, although not there yet. It opened bigger, again with this piercing acidity found throughout, and a bruised apple oxidative finish. The toughest vintage in the bunch, this still showed remarkably well.
BLIND: Pale and at first very shy and subtle on the nose. Rich flavors are balanced with an incredible acidity which had diners thinking of Chablis. Quite a bit more reserved than the others, it was still incredibly long and concentrated with the hallmark anise and herbal notes of chardonnay. Upon revelation, the shyness was perhaps telling of age 2010, more than origin, Chevalier Montrachet. PYCM, who tends to be on the richer side of things, could be in a bit of a shutdown stage. Either way, the wines was ridiculously long.
Flight two came with perhaps the best bites of the evening, a risotto topped with scallop bits, corn, and surely one of man’s greatest fusions, uni + butter.
Louis Latour 1992: Gold. First aromas are a bit odd – musty, slightly tired, and maybe a little dirty. The fruit awakens with a distinct spice (anise again). Body is weighty with lifting monster acidity. Fruit and earthiness give way to a rather clipped finish. Probably my least favorite in the line up, in lesser company this certainly would have stood out more!
From here forward our focus turns solely to the wines of Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche. The Laguiche family is the largest single owner of vines in Montrachet, with a phenomenal 2 ha of the 7.8 total. The Drouhins have been the winemakers since 1947, which raised questions of whether or not this metayage has an expiration or goes on indefinitely. The wines are spectacularly delicious, so if anyone cares about this humble opinion, let the Drouhins keep on keeping on!
A Tale of Two Cities as compared with the ’92 Loutis Latour, Edan commented.
Drouhin MdL 1992: Golden, aromas of lemon doused iced tea with an equally exuberant and lush texture. New oak is apparent, but so seamlessly integrated and complementary that defies contemporary notions of less is more. Linear, fresh, and totally concentrated, welcome to Drouhin!
Flight 3: trout and almonds – subtlety beautiful.
Laguiche 1995: ripe and bright aromas yet the palate is wholly classic. This is quintessential Chardonnay and ranks among my top of the evening. There is just so much packed into a tight little racy package, that there is zero doubt this wine will continue to give so much pleasure for the next 50 years. The length alone is enough to inspire a Kardi B song.
Laguiche 1990: the most restrained of the flight, with some light dusty funk notes. Lean, intense and concentrated and really silky in texture. Lemonade acid. This is in its perfect window and was many people’s, including Brian’s, favorite of the evening.
Laguiche 1989: One of my top for the evening, the ’89 was smoking! Wonderful nose with flint smothered papaya aromas. Rich, oh so creamy, and one of the softest of the evening telling me this is sitting square on the top of its deliciously seductive plateau. If I were a billionaire, I’d be scooping up all of the ‘89s I could find right now.
Flight 4: chicken with toasted fregola and morels. Wonderful! Side note, the sourdough bread was dense fluffy perfection.
Laguiche 1969: Creamy light nose, snowballs gaining more intensity. Lifting VA aromas. Lush. Great. And austere on the finish. The oak feels bigger here than on the 1966. Absolutely wonderful, round, plush, concentrated, complex, and totally linear and clean on the finish. One of my contenders for wine of the night (with ’89 and ’95).
Laguiche 1966: Showing more oxidative character than the 1969, the ‘66 was still very much alive. There’s a level of completeness, as if the entire circle has been completed, and then filled in with dusty caramel and glazed with a silky layer of glycol. Divine and proof in the longevity of wines from this magnificent vineyard.
A ridiculously indulgent and enlightening evening of the full Monty, as Brandon would say.
Drink more Montrachet.